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Young rookie's Daytona 500 victory 'hasn't sunk in'

By Antoinette Campbell, CNN
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Trevor Bayne makes Daytona 500 history
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trevor Bayne "never thought in a million years" he'd win his first time out at Daytona
  • He becomes the first rookie ever to win NASCAR's most prestigious race
  • "There was a collective gasp" as the race ended, motorsports writer says
  • Bayne is considered a "fresh new face'" for NASCAR fans
RELATED TOPICS
  • NASCAR

(CNN) -- NASCAR has a new king.

It's not enough that the Daytona 500 champion turned 20 years old the day before the race, making him the youngest driver ever to win; he is also the first rookie ever to win it.

"I never thought in a million years we were gonna win our first one," Trevor Bayne told CNN Monday morning, "it's incredible."

Bayne wasn't the only one who didn't think he would win. He came into the race a complete underdog, according to some NASCAR writers, and even into the last lap, it was anyone's guess who would take the checkered flag.

Read about Trevor Bayne's race for faith

Bayne said that after he saw the white flag signaling the final lap, "I thought we were in the worst position possible."

Less than a minute later, he got an unobstructed view of the checkered flag, and "there was a collective gasp at the track," said motorsports writer Jeff Gluck.

"It was probably the most memorable race I've ever been to," said Gluck, who is starting his eighth season covering NASCAR.

Bayne, less than a full day into his historic win in NASCAR's most prestigious race, has been thrust into sudden fame.

"It hasn't sunk in to me yet just how big a deal this is," said the Knoxville, Tennessee, native. "This is just, ah, incredible."

Sunday's race provided a record-setting start for NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup series, and a fresh new face for fans.

"It's great for the sport," Gluck says, "fans have been clamoring for a new personality."

"Nobody doesn't like him," Gluck said of Bayne. "He's someone everyone can get behind."

"I can't thank everybody enough," Bayne said. In only his second Sprint Cup race, the young driver spoke reverently of veteran drivers on the track who "took that leap of faith seeing our yellow rookie stripes on the back bumper, and still worked with us anyway."

"Those guys are the ones that laid the foundation."

Bayne said he almost felt bad about his win because he was "coming in and spoiling the fun for everybody."

Bayne, who is not yet 21 and can't drink alcohol, had to have a different celebratory drink.

"I think they had Gatorade instead of whatever else they use in the victory lanes," he said.

Gluck said Bayne is outspoken about his faith. He is also active in Back2Back Ministries, a Christian organization that works with orphaned children and needy people in Mexico, Nigeria and India.

Bayne's car was inducted into the Daytona 500 Museum Monday morning, where it will remain until next year's winning car claims the spot.

According to Gluck, drivers divided up a purse worth $18.7 million, with Bayne's team, the Wood Brothers racing, taking in $1.4 million. He said Bayne is expected to get about one-third of that.